Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Breastfeeding is Ick

It's been a while since I blogged, mainly because Baby Badger is demanding much more of my time. She's awake much more, wants to be involved in everything and I'm pretty sure the dreaded separation anxiety has kicked in (a few months early if you believe the books). That, however, is not why I'm writing.

I've written a few times about breastfeeding (Breast is Best and Breast is Best: the backlash), and I was pretty damning about mothers who don't attempt to breastfeed. That was back in August and the time I've spent reading blogs during the endless night feeds (hurrah for the iPhone) has mellowed my view on things. That doesn't mean I'm any less passionate about breastfeeding, but I've learnt a lot more about the real obstacles that face many (if not the majority of) mums.

Something that's grabbed my attention over the last few days is the uproar caused by Facebook's curious double standards over what is deemed acceptable content. The Leaky Boob is a page that provides support and advice to breastfeeding mums and with over five and a half thousand "likes" it has supported a huge number of mums to continue with breastfeeding. A few days ago, this Facebook page disappeared, apparently because of the breast-related content. There are also numerous personal accounts being suspended because proud mums are uploading photos of their babes breastfeeding. Ridiculous! The Leaky Boob has since been reinstated, thanks to the efforts of thousands of supporters, but most of the personal accounts have not been. What kind of society do we live in when the mammary gland is considered as inappropriate subject matter unless sporting a Wonderbra?

A favourite parenting blog of mine is the Analytical Armadillo. There is a wealth of information, not just on breastfeeding but also on other aspects of parenting. Recently she invited mums to share their experience of breastfeeding and the support they were given, and these stories are starting to be published: try reading Verity's story or Kayleigh's story and I challenge you not to be touched and concerned. Next, have a look through some of the other articles, such as 70% of mums have felt pressure to stop breastfeeding - I was one of those who replied yes to the poll. Now have a look at recent press coverage of breastfeeding: among other publications we can read Heat's article about Natalie Cassidy, with "Ick" and "Eeeeww" used in reference to breastfeeding.

It seems to me that we have two huge problems to overcome. The first is the NHS: most healthcare professionals are very well meaning when it comes to supporting breastfeeding but the service is hugely under-staffed, lacking in training and there is no consistency in the level of knowledge and care. The second is that western society sees breastfeeding as theoretically good but in practical terms a bit of a taboo, and certainly not something to be considered past six months.

It really makes me feel rather sad.


  1. I'd like to tell you my story as it hit me hard. I wanted to breastfeed for a long as possible. At nearly 5 months old my son was refusing to feed from me, screaming because he was hungry and when we saw the HV found out he'd lost 2lbs. She said to see the GP ASAP and to come back to her next week to get his weight checked again. The GP looked him over and said he was teething and my breast milk was no long enough for him anymore so suggested we begin weaning. A week later I go back in and he's gained 4lbs! That's the 2lb he lost back PLUS another 2lbs on top of that. When the HV asked me what the GP said I told her and she yelled at me and her last words to me were "Well since you have already messed everything up I guess you should continue to feed him food". I went back to our home and cried on the phone to my partner.

    Now I know I did the right thing following what the GP told me to do and my son is perfectly healthy but just because she lost me (found out they have annual figures of how many women they need to keep breastfeeding til 6 months) she should not have made me out to be a bad parent.

    If a mother can withstand the first 3 months of breastfeeding I say hats off to them!

    And don't get me wrong, I got lots of help at the hospital and they were amazing when I wanted help on feeding my son. I've nothing against the NHS, just the lady I had was not very caring about the problem we had.

  2. thanks for great post, will be checking out the sites you recommend. Love the sound of 'leaky boob'


  3. I've been having such a struggle with breast feeding. It's one of the most difficult, painful things I've ever done. I'm suffering from vasospasm, so my nipples feel as if I've jumped into cold water during night feeds no matter how good our latch, and when not feeding if I'm cold or emotional, or just for no reason at all.

    I've had nothing but support from the NHS and the Sure Start lactation consultants -- but I'm worried that I'm cutting feeds short because of the pain so Alec is not gaining weight, and that the HV will have a serious talk with me at her next visit.

    PS: Guess what Alec's nickname is? He's Baby Badger, too!

  4. I think that it's not so much that breast-feeding is taboo, more that organisations believe it is just too much trouble to cater for bf Mums. And I'm including shopping centres, workplaces, restaurants, health centres, etc etc. It comes back to the importance given to the rearing of children really doesn't it? Thanks for taking part in Blog Gems x

  5. As a fellow breastfeeding mummy to a now 15 month old girl, I have also been guilty of judging other mothers who do not breastfeed. It's generally because I don't know the full story, assuming they've just found it clash with their lifestyle or didn't persevere enough. I realize now just how hard it can be for some women, and how lucky I am to be well supported - perhaps without this support, I too may have given it up.


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